The Soulblight King: Chapter 2, The Gathering of Carcassonne.

The Soulblight King had done exactly as he intended. He had stirred the cauldron and sent a message to Carcassonne that Pares was ready for war, the invitation had been sent in the form of Chéry. Chéry bruised and petrified rode back to Carcassonne to give the King of Bretonni the news the myths are true, Thierre Dufour 'lives'. He travelled back up the forgotten path, the sun beat down on him, his thirst raged, his belly grumbled. He hunched over his horse, half asleep, half dying; his horse was not in a better state but still he walked on. He entered the Kingdom of Carcassonne on the fifth day and collapsed in the farm fields of Montpellier, the area was famous for producing their sweet wine and had great connections to the castle. A farmer had seen the knight approach and seen him fall from his horse, he ran to the knight’s aids and saw by his dress, although now tattered, he was a noble man serving the King. 

Chéry did not remember how but he awoke to the sounds of the busy city, hustle and bustle of peasant men and woman in the market place, the smell of sewers and sweat normally a plague on the city now smelt sweet, a home comfort. He knew he was back in Carcassonne. His vision was still blurred, but he saw a figure enter the room, he heard the clang of steel armour and a voice speaking low and softly. “You live Sir Chéry, you are back in Carcassonne, the King asks for your audience in the castle, Are you able?” Chéry turned his head to see a guard of the King reaching out a hand to help him. “I am able, I have much news for the King.” “Good, young Sir, then I shall send for maidens to help you into your clothes and bring you before the King by days end.” With that, the guard left the room and in entered four young women to aid the Knight back into his freshly washed clothes. The Knight was led across the town centre and up the road to the castle, he did not think he would be back this soon, but the King need to know of the tales in Pares. 

Chéry entered the Kings hall and walked up to the steps at the bottom of the throne. He knelt upon the first step, “My King, I have failed in my quest and bring dire news of my brothers, I return to accept my fate upon your sword.” The King stood and opened his arms, walking forward slowly, “Young Knight, rise my child, you shall receive no sword today; you are but my bravest of children, now tell me of your travels and why you return alone to our city.” Chéry rose and took a step back. “My King, My Father, I return from The city of the damned, the city of Pares, the myths are true. The city is not abandoned but is haunted by flesh eaters and blood drinkers, the Lord of the land has turned my brothers upon us. One who claims to be Thierre Dufour, the traitor King. I could not match his power, my apologies father, I have failed you.” The King stopped and looked at Chéry speechless, his eyes bulged and he turned to the view from the window. “So, it is true, Pares still endures. The Soulblight King has in fact returned to plague the Realm once again. Who led you to the city, how did you come to be in the presence of Death?” “We aided an old man, Vlad I believe his name was, he told of his peoples demise in the city and his escape.” The King interrupted “No-one escapes that place unless it is for a purpose. What happened to your fellow knights?” “They have been turned upon us, I saw them vanish before my eyes.” 

King Houghton turned to his guard and Paladin, send forth word to the Realm, I call for a council to discuss this matter, send forth for the Faye, I require her assistance in locating the only man who could be able to stop this disease spreading further. His guard dispatched quickly, sending messengers out into the lands to call for the Lords and Nobles. The personal bodyguard of the King made his own way out into Fangwood Forest to speak with the Faye and request her presence in front of the King. The Faye, a direct line of communication to the lady was a solitary person, she find home among the trees seeking peace in nature. Only in times of dire need would she ever be called for. The bodyguard of the King, Hénry Ramire made his way into the forest and came across a small lake in the clearing, he entered the water and sunk below the surface, upon opening his eyes he saw the vision of the lady who smiled softly at him, a sign the Faye could hear him. He rose out of the water and spoke to the woods. “My Lady, the King requests your presence in Carcassonne, he begs for your audience, will you accept?” For what seemed an age there was no answer. Then a whisper entered the thoughts of Hénry. “Tell your King, I know why he seeks my aid, tell your King, if he needs the answer he seeks to look upon the lands of Minos in town of Dawic, a man resides there, clad in Black armour, he will be able to help with his quest. Now leave me and this sacred place, I give you no more.” 

Hénry returned with his news, the King did not approve of the Faye and did not appreciate a message instead of her presence; but he knew she would be needed again before long so left his annoyance behind. He had found out the information he required and gathered a small band of Knights and rode for Dawic, the ride would take three days and he could afford no more time. 

Dawic was a small town on the road that led from Bretonni to Minos, a traders town; the town was not bias to a particular race and men, elves and dwarves all gathered here trading stories, merchandise and their swords. The Frog Inn was in the heart of this town and the heartbeat of the area, sitting in the corner in the shadows was a man clad in black armour smoking his pipe and taking in the surroundings. People around here knew better than to approach him. King Houghton and his men entered the tavern and approached the barman, he asked if he knew of a man, not of this area, the barman said nothing but tilted his eyes towards the corner. The Black Knight was already staring at these foreigners, the King approached him and introduced himself. “Good Evening Knight, I Am..” The man interrupted, “I know who you are and I know why you have come, and the answer is no.” “How can you know why we are here Knight?” “I know my lands and the lands whisper, whispers travel faster than foot. The answer is no, I will not join you, I do not intend to go anywhere near that damned city, the city is dead, my people are dead.” The King thought for a moment. “There is a chance young knight of saving your people, of ridding the lands of the dead and reclaiming your rightful place as Lord of the land.” The Black Knight stood, “Lord? You think me of just Lord? If I take my place at the throne of Pares, it will be as King! That is my rightful place!” The tavern fell quiet, all eyes turned to the conversation. “Perhaps this is not the place to be discussing such matters” the King explained, “Perhaps we can travel back to Bretonni and have these discussions in private away from curious ears.” “Perhaps; if I come with you, if I help you rid Pares of its plague, then I need some promises. I need your word that the Kingdom will return to Pares.” The King thought again for a moment. “OK Knight, I promise you that much.” 

Vlad entered the gates of the fortress in the heart of Pares, the sky around him was dark, and thunder could be heard in the distance as if a huge storm was brewing on the horizon. He entered in to the throne room and approached Thierre. “You requested my presence, my King.” “Yes Vlad, I need you to summon your legions of ghouls and ride out to the small town on the outskirts of Lency, a grail knight going by the name of Karab Henry is in charge of the lands. He must be turned along with his people, the town must become one of undeath. Do you understand my friend?” “I do my king, but I do not control that many flesh eaters.” “Then find a way Vlad, I know you already know how.” “Yes, my King” with that Vlad turned swiftly and exited the hall, glancing as he did towards a stair case leading down into the bowels lit softly by candlelight. He jumped back atop his horse and rode out of Pares, heading North along the forgotten path and into the Badlands. He knew of only one way to gain enough ghoul followers to turn a town, Stogolhi, the ghoul king would be his only hope. Vlad walked his horse slowly through the marshlands, smelling the air as he did so. Stogolhi does not need much to rouse him and the thought of that much blood would mean this conversation would be short, Vlad stopped and extended his arms. “Ghoul King! I offer blood and death to you as requested by Thierre of Pares! Do you accept?” I strange howl filled the air and laughter. “Just tell me where and when vampire.” Vlad smiled and turned his horse to lead the way, from the shadows, hordes of ghouls ran along side him, tearing at each other in a frenzied thought of blood. 

The legions drove on towards Lency, a quiet farmers town with large amounts of land, in the heart rose a small court where the House of Henry lay its name. The town had been granted to Karab on his return from his adventures and finding the grail. He looked from his window as the sound of screams disturbed his work. He saw his people running towards the court; many were being pulled down by creatures of the night, he ran to his sword and blasted out the doors to help people inside, he cut down many Ghouls, his speed already matching that of the undead, he fought his way through the hordes along with his few Knights by his side. He cut his way through to an opening in the battle, standing in front of him, towering well above the surrounding flesh eaters was a huge ghoul. Karab charges the beast and swings his blade cutting into the arm of the ghoul but this stoked no reaction. Instead the Ghoul King just smiled and tilted his head; Karab noticed his eyes wander to look past him. As he did, Karab felt a cold enter his body from his neck, his eyes turned blurry and he fell to the floor, as he did he noticed the outline of a man bending down to pick him up. His neck throbbed with a pain close to a feeling of pleasure, but his eyes faded and closed for now. 

A horn sounded from the distance, the ghouls invasion had not gone unnoticed and had been seen by Carcassonne, a host of Knights charged down the plains and towards the undead. The sight alone was enough to scatter the ghouls and they fled as swiftly as they ambushed. Karab and his men were found either ripped apart or laying motionless, ghostly white, they were breathing but no heartbeat could be felt. The bodies were gathered up and transported to the city. Karab awoke, but did not feel awake anymore. His heart had been cursed, his mind now had been split in two and he felt a hunger like nothing before. He had fought the undead before and taken on vampires so knew what this curse that was starting to consume him was. Like all Grail Knights, he had sworn an oath to the lady herself to keep peace within the Realm, but now all he wanted was death. He heard screams and quickly, more quickly than before, jumped to his feet and rushed to the sound. He was shocked to see his men ransacking the healing rooms, feasting on the nurses and priests. “ENOUGH MEN” he shouted. The men stopped and looked to him, they too now had the Soulblight curse, but still looked to Karab for leadership. “We will not succumb to this curse men, I forbid you to drink another drop of these poor folk. Release your hunger, do not let it become you.” The men dropped the victims and knelt before Karab. “We must return to our lands, we can not be around population at the moment, we must figure where we now belong in this world.” The men had had their fill and so agreed, whether this agreement would last, only time would tell. 

Vlad entered the castle in Pares, answering the summon of his master Thierre, “I congratulate you Vlad on your success at Lency.” “There was no victory at Lency, those coward ghouls fled at the first sign of Carcassonne.” “The purpose was not to destroy Lency, but to provoke an answer from the city, so I congratulate you on your success brother. You shall have your freedom, you shall be reunited with her. Soon. But, I must ask one last thing of you” Vlad lowered his head and answered as if disappointed. “Yes my lord”.

Vlad rode out thinking only of his wife, he had spent so long without her, he had almost forgotten her smell, but not yet. He headed north towards Quol, Thierre had asked one last favour. He knew of ratmen inhabiting these lands in the shadow of the mountain and also knew of an artifact belonging to them, long ago stolen by himself and now being housed in the vaults of Carcassonne. Thierre needed the capital at its weakest and the rats were key.


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